THE LONG-WINDED STORY:
Many of you have asked me to share my health/ business journey with you. Many of those 8 years were a bit of a blur, but this is my best attempt to summarize it and share it with you.
After having my youngest daughter, in 2009, my mom was diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer. She was not only my mom, but my best friend, and it was extremely difficult. Pair that with the hormones from just having a baby, and you’ve got a perfect stress storm. My health began to roller coaster.
Oddly enough, this is the same time in which I started my business (because what better thing to do when you are barely functioning than start a business). Ha! I had taken off work for a short time after having my daughter. One day, I went over to a friend's house and she told me about the life and work of Katie Davis. Katie moved to Africa, by herself, as a teenager and by the time she was 23, she had adopted 13 beautiful girls and had begun Amazima, which is an organization that has helped thousands of children. I wept as I read the heartbreaking stories on her blog and I knew the Lord wanted me to find a way to help. Since I wasn't working, we had no financial cushion, so I began brainstorming ways in which I could help. After much prayer and encouragement from friends, my first little art business was launched. I truly thought the only orders I would get would be from my mom, but thankfully I was wrong. God allowed me to stay very busy and meet amazing people from all over the United States. Their orders encouraged me and challenged me to push myself to try new things and keep improving. Because of my customers, I was able to consistently partner with Amazima. Today, we partner with Amazima and Feed My Starving Children, both incredible organizations.
In 2010, I went back to teaching and continued my art business on the side. I struggled with my health for most of the year, often using crutches to get around. My knee would swell twice its size, my shoulder dislocated while I was sleeping, I hurt all over, I had stomach issues, and began to lose weight pretty rapidly. My jaw locked shut for 6 months (hich made teaching very interesting. I can vividly remember conducting my parent teacher conferences like this), In 2011, my mom died and, shortly after, my health got increasingly bad. I was put on steroids in order to walk, but I couldn't stay on them and would crash as soon as I'd start to taper off of them. Because of this, my doctor was convinced that whatever I had was an autoimmune disease, but all of my tests kept coming back inconclusive. I kept telling my friends that I had always wanted to be a "woman of mystery," but this was not quite what I had in mind (a sense of humor is imperative). By the fall of 2012, it became completely debilitating. I was getting sick every 10-15 minutes. My weight dropped to 85lbs in a matter of days, my joints were swelling and dislocating, and the pain was indescribable. I could no longer walk/ stand or use my right arm. I had to quit teaching Kindergarten and shut down my art business. We went into survival mode for the next few years. My girls were 3 and 6, at the time, and it was very scary. We truly didn't know what was happening. There was a 6 month break where we thought I was doing better and I was able to walk again and be more active, but I soon flared again and was back in my wheelchair and stayed there for about a year ad a half. During this year and a half, we tried different diets, naturopaths (several), acupuncture, and more. Nothing seemed to help.
In 2016, my doctor confirmed that I had a rare form of Crohn's disease (the cause of the stomach issues and possibly of my joints swelling). The cause of the dislocations was still unknown, but was thought to be an unknown auto-immune disease as well. I began eating paleo after reading about it and slowly started to get sick less often, but still couldn't find any cures for my joints. This was a long and difficult battle. The Lord was good in so many ways, but I was also extremely weary because I was constantly in pain and was unable to sleep. After trying everything else we could think of and after lots of prayers, we decided to try some new long-term medications. It wasn't an easy decision, because all of the medications come with a list of side effects and I didn't love the thought of having to be on them for the rest of my life, but we had to do something. I began the medications and physical therapy in May of 2016 and began to see major improvements within 5-6 months. It was such a relief to not only have less pain, but also to be able to take care of my girls/ family and have some independence back. It was such a hard season of life, but I am thankful for it in so many ways. Even in that season, the Lord was so good. I can't even begin to list the things I learned through that time and the many ways in which He came through for us. I would love to sit down with each of you and tell you all about it, but I can also promise that I’d cry throughout it (which would be okay).
As my hand started to heal and I was able to hold paint brushes and pens again. My business was still on hold, so I was able to just play around. I began trying out new ideas that had been swirling around in my brain for a long time. No rules, just playing...learning...experimenting. It was just what my heart needed and I started dreaming about my little business again and dreaming of how I could continue to partner with amazing organizations that help hurting children all over the world.
It is now 2019, and I am so thankful to say that I am still in remission. I will never be the same, though. Going through hard circumstances changes you. God knows how to use those types of situation to whittle away the pride/ self-sufficiency and even change the ways in which you've just grown complacent. I was asked to do a video for our church. A short interview about my story. I do not love talking in front of others or being videoed, but I felt like I should do this in order to share a little of what God taught me in that time. I posted it below, if you'd like to see it. I pray that God uses it to encourage your heart.